Canada's young musical prodigies are waiting to hear if they will get the chance to borrow the country's collection of centuries old antique instruments.

The collection is valued at over $28m with instruments dating back as far as 1696 - including a number of Stradivari violins and cellos.

A shortlist of 17 violinists and six cellists are waiting to hear if they can borrow the extraordinary instruments from the Canada Council for the Arts' prestigious Musical Instrument Bank.

"This contest is a very, very big deal, because the winners get the use of these hugely expensive instruments for three years," said event publicist Caroline Stevens from Toronto.

The council's instrument bank was created in 1985 to acquire quality stringed instruments for loan to up-and-coming international solo or chamber musicians.

Many previous winners have gone on to international acclaim, including the Grammy winning violinist Denise Djokic.

The competition is held once every three years.

The shortlist is a who's of who rising classical talent from across Canada, including violinists Jing Wang and Nathaniel Anderson-Frank, and cellist David Eggert.

The Canada Council doesn't buy the instruments, they are borrowed from wealthy Canadians and Americans.


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